The pressure is on those small local business owners who have been holding out, hoping against hope that the Internet would go away. It’s become fairly obvious that that’s not going to happen.
As a matter of fact, the Kelsey Group says that “70% of U.S. households now use the Internet as an information source when shopping locally for products and services.”
It’s become obvious that small business owners who don’t have an Internet presence are at a serious disadvantage, and are losing more ground every day to their competitors.
But where to start? Many small business owners want to get online but the idea of it becomes overwhelming. One of the things many people are concerned about is the cost. Having a professional website created can be expensive, as can the online marketing needed to promote the site. Fortunately with a little work, there are some great low budget online marketing solutions for small businesses.
First, don’t immediately buy web space or register your domain name with the first site that pops up in Google. Web space can be pricey or fairly cheap; it all depends on what company you go with. There are some sites that offer free hosting, but those sites usually force you to include banners or pop-up ads on your site. If you want to be taken seriously, you definitely do not want to host your business on a free hosting site.
There are places on the web that offer a good amount of storage for less than $100/yr, which is not bad. You can also find sites that will register your domain name for less than $10/year, such as the popular GoDaddy.com.
Once you have your website set up, how do you get people to visit? One of the best ways is to take advantage of social networking sites like Squidoo.com and MySpace.com. MySpace.com is a huge site designed to let people keep in touch with others. However a lot of businesses set up MySpace profiles and send out “friend” invitations to clients and prospects. Retail store owners, service providers, authors, bands, magazines and even tourism companies do MySpace marketing. Same thing with Squidoo. This form of marketing is becoming even more powerful than reciprocal linking.
Don’t forget message boards, chat rooms and link exchanges either. They are great ways to get your word out. When you first began your low budget online marketing campaign, you’ll probably spend anywhere from 5 to 10 hours a week promoting your site, or you can train an employee, intern or your resident teenager to do it.
The simplest way of marketing your small business is to include your website address in your signature in emails and posts to message boards, even if they aren’t related to your business. While this doesn’t market directly to your targeted audience, it does make people aware of your website. Who knows, maybe they’ll know someone who needs your services.
It’s very easy to do low budget online marketing for small business because so many things on the Internet are free — message boards, networking sites like Squidoo and MySpace, and of course, email. The main thing it will cost is time, but even that can be “bought” at budget prices on sites such as rentacoder.com and getafreelancer.com. So there’s no reason for even the busiest small business owner not to get their business online, even if they’re on a tight budget.